It is important to consider a few things before you start looking for a home that can meet a loved one’s physical or developmental needs. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lists state and local government agencies and other organizations that can help you. At the federal level, HUD also provides information about Section 504 regulations defining federal financial assistance. In particular, Section 811 outlines Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities. It’s important to research available services before contacting a realtor.
Finding the Right Home
Once you have a strategy and know which programs you can use to minimize costs, it’s time to think about the housing location. Is the individual with special needs employed or a student? Can they drive a car, or must they be near public transportation to work or school? If your loved one is a K-12 student, pay particular attention to school and after-school programs. Many are offered outside of the school zone in some neighborhoods. Also, consider the proximity of hospitals and doctors, shopping (food, clothing, and household goods), dining, and entertainment. Also, check for any restrictions regarding support animals if it’s relevant.
Narrow Down Your Options
Create a short list of your best options by talking to others who have faced the same housing challenges in local support groups, school parent message boards, housing assistance advocacy groups, or online forums. You can save a lot of time and money by learning from others who have gone before you. They may help eliminate some properties or neighborhoods and save you from common missteps.
Investigate the Properties
After identifying a general location that meets some of your criteria, canvas the availability of appropriate homes. When thinking about the layout and design, consider the rambler or ranch-style house. They have a low profile, very few stairs to navigate (if any), and minimal exterior and interior features that could create problems when modifying the home.
If mobility is an issue, look for a house with smooth floor coverings, such as hardwood or laminate. Smooth surfaces provide easier access to shower and bathroom areas. Also, check to see that the doorways in the home are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Assess how many modifications would be required to address special needs while remaining within a budget. Grab bars, ramps, and other similar amenities are reasonably simple to add, and some states, cities, and counties will help pay for the modifications.
Lending Institutions and Realtors
Not only are there federal, state, and local agencies to help you meet the requirements of a special needs home, but some lenders and realtors specialize in financing and purchasing your home. An experienced lender and real estate agent will be familiar with special needs agencies and government programs that can help you get approved for a loan and maneuver the housing marketplace for the right fit.
Online Real Estate Platforms
Get online and look. Realtor.com, Zillow, Homesnap, and Redfin are just a few of the online options to explore real estate from your home or mobile device. Just plug in an address of a home in the area that meets your criteria, and you’ll get stats on that home as well as an aerial map of the neighborhood that allows you to click for more information about homes that haven’t been listed yet.
Realize this process takes time. Identify a strong, competent real estate agent who understands your special needs and takes the time to find the right housing solution for you. Also, speak with a trusted special needs attorney to ensure you have maximized all potential program benefits. Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you will make in your life. Buying one that accommodates special needs adds a layer of complexity that should be well thought out before hiring a realtor. Contact our Chicago area office at 630-568-6656 today and schedule an appointment with our special needs attorneys to discuss how we can help you with special needs planning, including purchasing a home.